Sheriff Joes Got Arizona ACORN in his Crosshairs, Plus a Black Cowboy from Tucsons Got a Rap for Our Loony Lawman
I have to give Sheriff Joe Arpaio's regime props for creative abuse of the federal court system. Who else but a legal lapdog such as Timothy Casey, the guy making bank from county coffers for defending our septuagenarian lawman, would subpoena an organization that has absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit at hand?
The organization is ACORN (which Casey misspelled as "ACCORN" in his subpoena), the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Though ACORN's headquartered in New Orleans, the Casey-Arpaio brain trust served the subpoena in Washington, D.C. Actually, according to ACORN attorney Arthur Schwartz, the process server managed to serve an employee for another organization altogether, the American Institute for Social Justice, with which ACORN apparently shares a suite.
Hey, close enough, right? After all, if Arpaio & Co. were actually interested in folks getting served properly, they'd start by serving some of those 40,000 felony warrants the county has outstanding. But that might subtract precious time from the MCSO's hunting Hispanics and harassing legal observers who keep watch on deputies' doings with their video cameras.
Arpaio's flacks insist that ACORN's local offices were hit with a subpoena, as well. If so, it could be the world's first invisible subpoena, as ACORN's head organizer in Arizona, Monica Sandschafer, says she's gotten nada so far, and no one on her staff seems to have signed for it. She also pointed out that there would be no logical reason why Arizona ACORN would receive one.
Logic, Monica? We are talkin' about Arpayaso, here.
"That's like serving one Carl's Jr. location, instead of serving the corporate headquarters for Carl's Jr.," Sandschafer told me. "Our corporate headquarters are in New Orleans. You can find that out with a Google search."
The MCSO's press releases on the issuance of the ACORN subpoena have Arpaio claiming that he's invest-ah-mi-gatin' a financial link between ACORN and the folks who protest on weekdays outside his tony offices at the Wells Fargo building in downtown Phoenix.
Talk about a red herring the size of Seattle: The organization outside Wells Fargo is Salvador Reza's Puente movement, which, as of the beginning of this month, celebrated its one-year anniversary demonstrating. Reza laughed so hard when I asked him whether Puente had gotten dolo from ACORN that I thought I was going to have to call an ambulance for him. The answer was no, natch. Both organizations are separate entities, and both are as poor as Kenny's family on South Park.
See, Joe, no one has to be paid to loathe you. You achieve that on your own, with your misuse of county funds for profligate anti-immigration dragnets. Not to mention the $42 million-plus in lawsuit settlements you cost the taxpayers by not running your vast prison complex properly, among other malfeasances.
Joe even states in one MCSO press release, "It wouldn't surprise me if [ACORN] paid for [the Reverend Al] Sharpton's visit . . ." That visit to Phoenix being the one Sharpton made in June, after which the rev verbally spanked Arpaio on Lou Dobbs' CNN show.
Um, so what if ACORN did help with Sharpton's trip to Ari-bama? Big whup. There's nothing illegal about that. And while we're asking questions about who's getting flown where, who paid for your trip to Houston recently, Joe, to speak before two extremist nativist organizations?
(Note: I put in a public-records request for info on the Houston excursion and have been informed that the MCSO has no records on it.)
The reality of the ACORN subpoena is that — in contrast to the MCSO's press releases — it's not seeking any financial records. Rather, Arpaio's lawyer subpoenaed (according to the document itself) "e-mails, written correspondence, and/or documents of any type" between ACORN and the Department of Homeland Security, ACORN and ICE, ACORN and the U.S. Department of Justice, ACORN and the ACLU, ACORN and MALDEF, ACORN and Mayor Phil Gordon, and ACORN and Somos America. Casey wants all correspondence going back to January 1, 2008, regarding Maricopa County, the MCSO, Arpaio, Joe's 287(g) authority, and on and on.
Never mind that this little witch hunt on the taxpayers' dime has absolutely zip to do with the lawsuit the subpoena was supposedly issued for: the big Melendres vs. Arpaio racial-profiling lawsuit, pursued by the law firm Steptoe & Johnson, the ACLU, and MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) on behalf of five individuals and the human rights group Somos America.
The lawsuit seeks to show that the MCSO and Arpaio are engaging in a pattern and practice of racial profiling that affects all Latinos in Maricopa County. Though undoubtedly sympathetic to the complaint's aims — as are many groups in Arizona and beyond — ACORN is not a party to the lawsuit.
"It's plainly a frolic and a detour," David Bodney, top plaintiff's counsel on the Melendres case, said of the subpoena. He also characterized it as "a convenient exploitation of a hot political issue," for what he referred to as "precious little evidentiary value."
In a letter to Arpaio's D.C. attorney, Robert Driscoll — who was also involved in this stupid subpoena — ACORN lawyer Schwartz pretty much told Driscoll and Casey where they could stick it.
"If your request is for any documents which might address specific incidents similar to those alleged in the [Melendres v. Arpaio lawsuit], we will search our records," Schwartz advised Arpaio's attorneys. "If you are looking for something broader, we will move to quash [the subpoena]."
Arpaio's bogus subpoena was two things: an attempt to climb aboard the wingnut-driven bash-ACORN bandwagon and maybe score an appearance on über-fool Glenn Beck's TV or radio program and a stab at ACORN after four of its people, including Monica Sandschafer, were acquitted in Encanto Justice Court by Justice of the Peace C. Steven McMurry.
ACORN was the political right's punching bag during President Barack Obama's rise to prominence and has continued to be its punching bag since Obama was elected POTUS. The 30-year-old organization is known for its work with the poor on issues like housing and predatory lending practices, but it took center stage by backing Obama's campaign and by helping to register at least a half-million people to vote nationwide.
The right's responded with outrage and claims of fraud. But as Salon.com's Joe Conason recently pointed out in a vigorous defense of ACORN, the proportion of any actual fraud has been "infinitesimal."
"Over the past several years, a handful of ACORN employees have admitted falsifying names and signatures on registration cards, in order to boost the pay they received," Conason wrote. "When ACORN officials discovered those cases, they informed the state authorities and turned in the miscreants."
The most recent round of fake outrage on the right has come courtesy of two tres conservative 20-somethings, James E. O'Keefe III and Hannah Giles, who punked various ACORN offices around the country with Ashton Kutcher-like gotcha videos featuring O'Keefe as a pimp in a wide-brimmed hat and Giles as a 'ho in a short skirt. They look so ridiculous and act like such unvarnished fakers that it's amazing they weren't kicked to the curb everywhere they went.
The con didn't always work. In some cases, he and his faux hoochie-mama were booted out. In Philadelphia, the ACORN office filed a police report on the pair after they came in with their cock 'n' bull tale of smuggling in underage prostitutes from El Salvador.
In National City, California, they ran the same game, and the ACORN worker listened to their bull, but he later told about them to a cousin who's a cop. In Baltimore, the pseudo-sex workers struck gold, and found some really stupid ACORN employees willing to offer advice to O'Keefe's hidden camera.
Some of the ACORN workers in O'Keefe's videos have been fired. ACORN President Bertha Lewis has hired a former Massachusetts attorney general to do an in-house investigation, and the feds are cutting off money to ACORN left and right. Fortunately for ACORN, it raises most of its cash on its own, so the government cut-offs won't mean the end of the organization.
What does all this have to do with Arpaio's attorney's sorry subpoena?
Well, why do you think it was issued? Sure, Joe would like to find out what ACORN, which has opposed Arpaio's racial-profiling sweeps, may have told the feds. After all, ACORN was instrumental in getting the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on the 287(g) program and Arpaio in April, and ACORN's anti-Joe activism also helped egg on the Justice Department to investigate claims that Arpaio's violated the constitutional rights of the people his gendarmes halt. Any info Arpaio's attorneys can glean for him through communications between ACORN and the DOJ will be helpful to Joe, despite the fact that this has nothing to do with the Melendres suit.
Also, we all know Joe loves being on the TeeVee. So it would surprise few if we were to discover that Arpaio asked his faithful poodle Casey to subpoena ACORN in a vain attempt to score Arpaio's flaccid jowls some airtime. As Bodney points out above, ACORN is red hot now. And Arpaio has to strike the proverbial iron if he's to get coverage.
The other reason for the subpoena and for Arpaio's new obsession with the org? Not only is this the group that convinced Sharpton he should come to Phoenix to denounce Arpaio (Sharpton and ACORN's Bertha Lewis go way back), it's also the one that recently whipped his hide in justice court, beating the rap on charges brought against four ACORN activists for disorderly conduct when they applauded during a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Meeting in December 2008.
Idiotic in the extreme? Hell, yes. But, hey, this is Maricopa County, with a backward voting majority that keeps electing Joe. The ACORNers, which included Sandschafer, Kristy Theilen, Jason Odhner, and Joel Nelson, were arrested by MCSO deputies and had to spend 10 hours in jail while getting processed. Raquel Teran, an organizer with Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, was later cited by the MCSO for the same disruptive clapping, even though applause is not proscribed by the Board of Supervisors' rules of conduct.
This was during the time when Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability and ACORN were putting pressure on the Supervisors to rein in Arpaio. The Supes have their own security — County Protective Services. But Arpaio's faithful stooge and then-Supes Chairman Andrew Kunasek, had requested the presence of the MCSO.
Instead of dropping the lame charges, Arpaio ally County Attorney Andrew Thomas wasted taxpayer funds seeking prosecution, and on September 1, he lost, big-time. After the prosecution rested following a day and a half of proceedings, JP McMurry blasted the MCSO for the arrests and acquitted the five defendants without needing to even listen to their defense.
"The First Amendment and the right to petition your government trumps [everything]," stated McMurry, who also said the arrests were "a mistake and wrong," and then ordered defense and prosecution lawyers to draft memoranda "discussing whether or not I have the power to award the defense attorney fees in this matter."
This was the most recent of several such losses the MCSO's been handed in incidents involving anti-Arpaio activists getting collared by sheriff's deputies for no good reason. Both Sandschafer and her then-fellow ACORNer Theilen were also acquitted on bogus trespassing charges from last year, when they were arrested for sitting quietly in the lobby of the Board of Supervisors' offices, along with two other activists. In that case, too, Theilen and Sandschafer ended up spending a day in the Fourth Avenue Jail for processing.
(Theilen, formerly ACORN's lead Tucson organizer, is no longer with the group.)
As Supervisor Don Stapley learned recently, after he was re-arrested by the MCSO following the dropping of all charges against him by Pinal County, Arpaio is a poor loser. Which is probably why Arizona ACORN should batten down the hatches and be prepared for an MCSO raid.
Because Hell hath no fury like an Arpaio whipped in court.
It's been years (or seems like it) since I first met the MC who now wears a mask and calls himself Outlaw Fleetwood. We swapped stories and matched each other drink-for-drink at Tempe's Palo Verde Lounge. He was an unforgettable character and the only African-American in a bar that was then filled with tattooed, white hipsters and a handful of non-racist skinheads. Needless to say, he made an impression.
When Fleetwood contacted me many moons later, advising me that he had written a poem based — in part — on my writings concerning Sheriff Arpaio, I didn't know what to think. It was a gritty, colorful ditty. He told me he was going to set it to music. I told him to let me know when he did. I wasn't sure he ever would and whether it would be any damn good if he did.
A few more months passed, and Fleetwood, who now lives in Tucson, sent me a CD of his song. I was afraid it would suck and feared having to tell him as much. Man, was I grateful when I listened to it. Seems Fleetwood has a producer cousin who has worked with such greats as Prince and George Clinton. In the song, titled "Tent City," Fleetwood envisions himself as a latter-day Clevon Little, riding in on a white horse à la Blazing Saddles to a tune that sounds like it was made by a black Kid Rock.
The refrain, which features a chorus fashioned from one teenage girl's voice, is haunting. She sings of the inhumanity of Arpaio and asks, "What's going on with Tent City?" Fleetwood's urban-cowboy patter envisions Arpaio in panty hose and pink handcuffs eating a jelly donut. He raps also of the desert heat, hit-and-run victims "as common as drive-bys in Compton," Scottsdale divas, and how, "Apache Junction, I've never been there, yet. Neither has any Apache since Geronimo, I'll bet."
The result is timely, funny, and politically astute. Since it's essentially a novelty song, radio stations are hardly scrambling to play it, but they should. Anyway, you can listen to an MP3 of the tune here. Currently, Fleetwood and local radical videographer Dennis Gilman are collaborating on a music video, and I'll put that up on my Feathered Bastard blog when it's available.
"I'm a rebel with a cause," Fleetwood explained recently. "I'm not trying to be MLK. But I do want people to know they have rights, even when they're in Arpaio's custody."
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